DAILY MAIL – Lily James, who plays fun-loving Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, is leaving the phenomenally popular show after she completes filming series five — but she won’t be killed off.

The actress is the title star of Disney’s live-action, big-screen Cinderella, which also stars Game Of Thrones actor Richard Madden (Robb Stark, the King Of The North) as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s stepmother, and Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother. Disney will release the picture next year, around Easter, and they have requested that Lily make herself available to help market the movie around the world.

She would be beginning her duties as a Disney Princess around the same time as Downton Abbey starts filming its sixth season. The Downton overlords don’t want Lady Rose written out of the show, though, so they will have her ‘bubbling’ away, but out of sight, and have urged her to come back and appear in the special Christmas episodes.

Downton creator and writer Julian Fellowes likes the energy Lily brings to the role of Lady Rose and doesn’t want her bumped off the way Matthew Crawley was, when Dan Stevens didn’t renew his contract; and Lady Sybil succumbed when Jessica Brown Findlay decided to quit Downton. (Both Stevens and Findlay wanted to be written out of the story.)

‘Lily’s young and adds balance to the family upstairs,’ a production executive told me. It’s clear Lily enjoys working on Downton, too. Each time I saw her on the Cinderella set she told me she was eager to see her Downton ‘family’. It hasn’t been settled yet exactly how Lady Rose’s absence will be explained. The next Downton series will be seen in the autumn.

The Cinderella film is a big deal. It’s directed by Kenneth Branagh and features sumptuous sets created by Dante Ferretti. The ballroom scene took up the entire 007 sound stage at Pinewood Studios; there were 500 extras dancing about; and Sandy Powell, the three-time Oscar winning designer, made the dazzling costumes. ‘It’s a very important film for Disney, and you can understand them wanting their leading lady to be available to promote it,’ one of Lily’s team told me.


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